CLEVELAND - My hands were too numb from the bitter cold to write what I wanted to, the way I wanted to, on that freezing cold December day.
That's just one of the things I recall about what I consider one of the most romantic places in northeast Ohio:
Lake Erie's Huntington Beach in Bay Village. It's one of my favorite places, and appropriately for Valentine's Day, one of the most meaningful.
But it's not the summer wind, hot sand and orange sunsets that speak to me. It's the much colder setting that warms my Valentine's Day heart.
When I began dating Angela, now my lovely wife, we often took in sunsets walking along the sandy shore and had coffee sitting on the rocks in the sunny spring and summer Sunday mornings. As we strolled the beach, we often noticed how some people carved their initials and love for each other in the rocks dating back 50 years.
When I decided to propose, I thought for days where and how to go about it. Then it hit me: Huntington Beach. The problem? It was the middle of December and frigid at our favorite spot. But that would only add to the surprise.
So on that cold December day, the long beach empty, wind blowing across the water, I headed down the steep concrete stairs to the sand. I tried carving our initials in one of those rocks like so many other couples had for decades with the words, "Angela, will you marry me?"
But my hands were so numb from the blistering cold, and the rocks so icy cold, I couldn't make the grooves how I wanted. Still, the message was clear.
I casually suggested Angela and I drive by the beach and have a coffee, only inside the heated car. As we sat up on the parking lot of the beach looking out over the cold lake, I played what would be our wedding song: Norah Jones "Come Away With Me."
And then I managed to talk Angela into walking down to the deserted beach with me.
I asked her to walk up to the rocks we always sat on in the summer. Then, I took out the ring as Angela peered down at my proposal in the rocks.
Just as I thought this romantic scene was playing out perfectly, out of nowhere, a large dog bolted toward us. It startled us, but luckily was friendly enough.
Lagging about 100 yards down the beach was the dog's owner and the two slipped away quietly moments later.
Our hearts still pounding from the surprise four-legged visitor, Angela said yes.
So on this Valentine's Day, it's not a romantic, cozy restaurant with a fireside table, or a warm summer evening on the beach that I think of, rather that chilly December day on a nearly empty, very cold Lake Erie shore that makes me smile.
We have shared so many memories there. One year after the proposal, we decided to tie the knot and stop by that same stretch of beach with our wedding party for photos.
Although faded, the message I carved into that rock one year earlier was still visibly there. Only now Angela wasn't my fiancee, she was my bride.
May you and yours enjoy making this Valentine's Day -- and every day -- memorable now and in the years to come!